What You Need to Know About Non-Paid Content Promotion Strategies


Andy Crestodina has been in the web design and interactive marketing space since January of 2000. In that time, he’s helped thousands of people do a better job getting results online. He’s a true evangelist for content marketing and ethical digital marketing. Together with the team at Orbit Media, Andy has put out some of the best digital marketing advice available in hundreds of practical articles, including posts on virtually all of the top marketing websites. Then there’s the book, Content Chemistry, which is now in its fourth edition. Andy is not only both a locally and nationally renowned speaker, but he is the founder of Content Jam, Chicago’s largest content marketing conference, currently in its fifth year. Attend any content marketing conference, the one Chicagoan you’re mostly likely to hear is Andy Crestodina. When Andy and I chatted recently, we talked about non-paid content promotion strategies. Here are the highlights:


DR:            I believe just from what I've seen out there, people believe that getting the blog or podcast up, or their video, or whatever the content piece might be is the finish line, but can you speak a little on the importance of some of the benefits you can expect from promoting your content?

AC:            Another way to put that is, you can expect almost no results, if anything at all if you don't promote the content. The New York Times does not have a list of the best books, they have a list of the best-selling books. It's not about the best content, it's about the best-promoted content.

DR:            If content is king, then promotion is queen? Andy, can you just kind of list out a couple of the best places to go about this, and then we'll start to dig into those individually?

AC:            I like to keep it really simple, and if you're talking about non-paid, and if you're talking about pure inbound or just content marketing, you're basically promoting content through three main channels. Search, as in organic search engine optimization, social media, and e-mail marketing. I think it's really easy to just think of it that way, you could slice it up into smaller pieces or add things maybe, but mostly that's it.

3 Main Channels of Content Promotion


Through these, any piece of content, anything that you make, whatever you publish next, can be promoted through one of those three channels. The best content is designed specifically for the channel in which it's going to get the most traction.

DR:            Let’s start with a bit of the social part. Let's just have you dig into some of the best practices and your experiences in working with Twitter.

AC:            Social is extremely visual, so we have to pay special attention to creating something that has a powerful featured image. The website needs to make sure that it's being set up so that image will appear when it gets shared, so anything that you want it to get traction on social, make sure that you test it. There's little tags that you have to add in your programming, or things that are done during the web design process, that make sure that the featured image will appear in that piece if and when it does get shared. That's called the 'social snippet'. If the image is just a picture, then that's less likely to get clicked and shared than a picture with the text overlaid, the headline is built into the image, in the pixels of the image. Faces help, and also just content that is designed like visual type content. One of the keys to understanding social is to realize this - articles do not get shared. The only thing that really gets shared is the headline, so social media, it's a war for attention, and social tends to move so fast and is so crowded. Finally, if you want to prime the pump, the smart way to do this is to make sure that if you want it to work well on Twitter, include some people who are active on Twitter in the article itself.

DR:                 Now, as far as Twitter timing, do you have any advice there?

AC:            Two schools of thought. One is to share when your audience is most active. The other is to share when your competitors are inactive. So, if you put your own account into a tool like Followerwonk, followerwonk.com, it will show you when your audience is active, and you can make sure to share during those hours. For a lot of people, it's like 11 o'clock Central, because that's lunch in New York and breakfast in L.A. The problem with that is that it's also the most competitive time.

But one final tip there, really, it's probably smart to share just before or just after the hour. So many people are using the scheduling tools and automation tools, and there are going to be like a million things that get shared right at 11 Central. Why not share at ten fifty-eight, or at eleven o four? You're less likely to get smushed in there in the middle with everyone else who's all piling up and on the hour.

DR:            Social media is great, you've got to do it, it's paramount, but at the same time, a very tiny percentage of people who even follow you or are even out there will see your tweet, just because the stream is going so fast. And I think a lot of people are like, 'Well, I already did that, I already posted that, I already tweeted that.' How many times do you think you could tweet the same article? Is there too much, even?

AC:            People who have tested this really had trouble finding a ceiling. It's like 'how much is too much?' You might think that it is way too much, and if you were in the audience you'd be bored, and you'd be tired, and you'd unfollow, but people who say this have never really tried sharing enough that it could actually make someone uncomfortable on the other end. It's just very unlikely. If you can get a little bit of data on what actually is getting the most traction in terms of the post, then take the one that works the best for that channel, and use a tool like Edgar to have that one go out over and over. Edgar is a social media scheduling tool that doesn't ever run dry, it just keeps things in rotation. The address is meetedgar.com and it runs about $50 a month.

DR:            I need to look into Edgar, I’m not familiar with it. Thanks for that pointer. I want to ask you a little bit about LinkedIn next.

AC:            So, a lot of people would hear what we just said about social media automation, or social scheduling, and think, 'Oh, Andy is a spammer.' Actually, the whole point of that is to free up more time for me to really interact with interesting people, and build true relationships, in fact, actual friendships.

DR:            That's a great point, you're just automating the table stakes. You've got to get stuff out, and you can't be sitting there, 'Oh, it's eleven o'clock, my alarm went off, let me tweet.' It's just not sufficient, or realistic, or smart, or anything. So yeah, that's just the table stakes to get the stuff out, but yeah, you're going to be a very real person who is going to be interacting with other people, you're just freeing that time up. It's a great point. Now, LinkedIn, just a couple deals on the social part here, how does one go about sharing here in your opinion? The same sort of thing, just buffering it, or do you suggest publishing here as well, where you can publish and post and sharing through your account? Can you dig into that a little bit?

AC:            LinkedIn is going to be relevant to everybody for their own career. It's not necessarily relevant to every brand when it comes to sharing content. There are lots of B2B brands that just are not going to ever get any traction in LinkedIn. So, let's say that LinkedIn is a good idea, it makes sense, part of your strategy and worth investing in. Really, this is one extra click you're going to be sharing one these networks as well, which is a smart thing to do. And you may find that your conversion rates are different, check your analytics, visitors may convert into newsletter subscribers at a higher or lower rate in one network over another.

That will help you allocate resources and judge whether or not you should really be investing time into this network. The idea of posting an actual full-length article is also something that you can do anytime, anywhere, just by publishing that as your main piece. I don't recommend doing that for original content. I recommended putting stuff there after it's already been on your site for a while. It's a good place to republish, also known as syndicate.

DR:            Google Plus- is it worth the time?

AC:            I think there are around a hundred million or more users on Google Plus, which everyone calls a failed network because everyone has high expectations of Google, but you will still find a lot of interaction, a lot of traction in niche groups in Google Plus. Don't write it off, especially if it's not that much more work.

DR:            Moving on to non-owned platforms- not your own website or blog, not your own personal Facebook page or Twitter account, other CMS, other platforms out there that aren't yours. Can you please give the listeners some good pointers on how they can further their reach through things like roundups, or people who aggregate good content, or possibly other influencers?

AC:            Yes, there's so many places where content can appear. Let's say someone asks you a question during sales, or just on the phone, or at a bar, and you have that answer, maybe in an email. You can actually just go search for other communities where that question was asked, and copy and paste your answer in there. Quora is a good place for this, quora.com is a question and answer website, kind of a social network.

DR:            You mentioned Quora.  Is it worth it to use a platform or a community, or an inbound marketer .org and publish there as well?

AC:                We talked about using LinkedIn Publisher as a place for syndication to repost or just copy and paste in old articles after they've run their course on your site. Medium.com offers the same thing. It's a nice place to syndicate. There are communities where it's an actual community of people who are upvoting each others' work, and they exist in many different niches. Some of the big ones in marketing are inbound.org and GrowthHackers.

One of the killer tricks that not everyone realizes is, you can create your own private community, like a mastermind group, or a private Slack board, use slack.com to create a group of marketers, and if you can stay active, and get traction, and drive enough value to each other, then you can end up in a group that maybe you created, or joined someone else's of twenty-five, or thirty, or fifty marketers who are all sharing, uploading, tweeting, reposting, liking, I mean everybody ends up in this kind of like mutual backscratching society, and if the content is good, you're glad anyway, because everything that you find through that and other people are sharing with you is of quality. But there are kinds of ways to hack the system where you see how people do it. I would consider looking for or starting your own Slack board of other people who are in kind of a content promotion group. It can be extremely effective.

DR:            Let’s move on to link roundups, people who aggregate good content. I assume this is one reason we do this- to have them pick your stuff up and get link backs, which is very important with the whole marketing plan, and SEO.  Can you talk about best practices, some good tips, and possibly any tools that might help with these efforts?

AC:            Good question, and it's a big trick. So, a lot of it has to do with the strength of the personal brand, because how does someone think of you? Let’s say I'm writing an article about puppy training. Which puppy trainers are top of mind for me when I want to make my article a better article and share it with people who will help me get traction in social? Really, it's a networking trick. So, ideally, you have positioned yourself and your personal brand as someone who is relevant on these topics, and who knows a lot about whatever this thing is - raising healthy dogs, whatever the topic is. So, it may take a while before you have built up enough authority in that industry or category, but it's worth it. So, what you can do to help trigger it is, as you talk to people, kind of end a lot of those communications with this little line that I run a lot which is, 'Hey, it was great to connect. If you would ever like to collaborate on anything at all, don't hesitate to reach out.' It's just a way to tell people that you'd be open to being included in their content or including them in your content.

That's really the goal, is to be very, very collaborative in your approach, so that they're thinking of you when they write something, and you're thinking of them when you write something. That’s a big part of it. The next challenge is to write something that is so much better than they'd get from anyone else, that they put you at the top of their round up. That's two in the trick.

DR:            Now, finding these people, I know that there are some tools like BuzzSumo. Do you use those?

AC:                  It’s more of a challenge for the agency than for the brand marketer. There are brand marketers like me who are really just doing marketing for one specific company. Most people like you work with tons of clients. In my case, I've been networking for a long time, and when I write an article on a topic, I can almost always think of someone who would be relevant and reach out to them. But if you're working with a ton of companies and different companies, or you're new to that company, or the brand is young, then a tool like BuzzSumo can be very useful, but I wouldn't let that be the end of it, because that's going to skew toward Twitter. You're going to miss out on a lot of really influential people. The idea is to include people who are active on the network where you're going to be promoting the content, so BuzzSumo is kind of like if you're active on Twitter and you want to find your audience there, then that could be great. I'm a huge BuzzSumo fan, I use the paid version, and I recommend it all the time, but don't exclude other possible sources.  

DR:            Let’s close with crossing the streams. When we talk next time, we'll pick up crossing the streams and start digging into content communities and getting more specific on that.

AC:            It's a great topic, and it's a great trick, and most people don't do it. So, here's how it works. I want to connect with David, the guy's an expert, he's got a great podcast, I've wanted to be on it for years, I'm a fan, and I know that he knows eleven things I'd like to know, and I'd like to introduce him to my audience, and I wouldn't mind if he promoted my content, linked to me, shared me, mentioned me somewhere in his stuff. So, David and I have been chatting on Twitter, he saw that I shared these things, he followed me back, I'm responding, he asked a question, I answered it, vice versa. It's not enough for me to connect with you in just that one place, though. Where a lot of people think social media is about building a large audience on one network, I want to build a social media presence where I connect to a few influencers on many networks. So, rather than just stay talking to you on Twitter, which really wouldn't get me tons of visibility or love, now I move to LinkedIn, and I connect with you there. And now I move to maybe Facebook or some other network.

                        Now, where it really begins to work is in the content promotion context, because let's say twenty-two people all share and like and comment something on one place. That's great, but it's not enough for me to really grow my network in multiple places. So, what I'd rather do then is, instead of thanking them in that first network, I can go share that piece again on a different network, and mention those people there. So, the twenty-two people who retweeted it, or who commented on the blog, I got to go to LinkedIn, share it on LinkedIn, mention those people again on LinkedIn. Guess what happens? Boom, they're going to share it immediately. They're going to mention me, or they're going to comment because I know they read it, I know they liked it, I know they're fans already. So, crossing the streams is both a networking and a content promotion trick, whereby you thank someone for an action on one network while sharing again in a second network.

DR:            You really give some great takeaways. Tell everybody how they can follow you.

AC:            I am publishing my latest and greatest, as we mentioned, I publish everything first on my blog. I do occasionally syndicate on other platforms, but orbitmedia.com/blog. I write something there every two weeks. The newsletter is not going to bomb your inbox because it's not even weekly, it's just every other week, but there are long and detailed in-depth how-to articles. You can also find me on any social network, and I recommend everyone do this, I'll connect with virtually anybody on LinkedIn. Why not? It's a great network, and I'm not one of those people who thinks that I have to have done a blood test and dated to be friends on LinkedIn. So, connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, or visit me on my own blog. Also, the book 'Content Chemistry' is available in its fourth edition on Amazon somewhere.



Andy has been in the web design and interactive marketing space since January of 2000. In that time, he’s helped thousands of people do a better job getting results online. He’s a true evangelist for content marketing and ethical digital marketing.

Together with the team at Orbit Media, Andy has put out some of the best digital marketing advice available in hundreds of practical articles, including posts on virtually all of the top marketing websites. Then there’s the book, Content Chemistry, which is currently in its third edition.

Andy is also a regular speaker both locally and nationally. Not only is Andy a founder of Content Jam, Chicago’s largest content marketing conference (currently in its fifth year) but he’s also a regular face on the national circuit. If you go to a content marketing conference, the one Chicagoan you’re mostly likely to hear is Andy Crestodina.

Andy has been in the web design and interactive marketing space since January of 2000. In that time, he’s helped thousands of people do a better job getting results online. He’s a true evangelist for content marketing and ethical digital marketing.